Hotel Bennett01.jpg (copy)

Several hundred hotel rooms have been added to the Charleston area's inventory this year, including 179 rooms at Hotel Bennett, which opened in January. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

A new 11-member task force will be charged with creating a proposal to slow hotel growth on the Charleston peninsula. 

The group, which will include representatives from City Council, the lodging industry and preservation groups, will have just over a month to develop recommendations. 

Mayor John Tecklenburg was calling potential members Wednesday, spokesman Jack O'Toole said, and he plans to ask the group to bring a proposal for City Council to review at its May 28 meeting. 

The creation of a task force was the clearest consensus to come out of Council's discussion of hotels Tuesday, when Tecklenburg presented his latest proposed changes to the city's accommodations rules. Council ultimately voted to defer the mayor's proposal. 

Describing the plan as too ambiguous, several members said it wasn't ready. 

"It needs a lot of work," Councilman William Dudley Gregorie said. 

The new proposal was an amended version of previous recommendations that were put on hold in August. It focuses on protecting existing office, retail and residential uses.

The newest proposal included three main changes from the previous version. It calls for the city to:

  • set a minimum number of 20 hotel rooms
  • set a maximum number of 250 hotel rooms for the section of the peninsula that allows an unlimited number of rooms in certain cases
  • give the Board of Zoning Appeals more power to reject hotel proposals.

But Council members said they expect a task force to significantly change Tuesday's proposal, describing it as a "starting point."

Tecklenburg has brought several plans to rein in hotel development to Council, but none has won sufficient support. Earlier suggestions included a one-year moratorium on new projects and the removal of 86 properties from the city's "overlay" zone where hotels can be built.

Most recently, the approval of a 252-room hotel on upper Meeting Street prompted more urgency from residents and preservation officials who fear that hotel density in downtown Charleston has reached a tipping point. 

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In 1980, the peninsula had about 1,085 hotel rooms, according to city estimates. That number had swelled to nearly 5,000 by the end of 2018, and another 2,500 are in the pipeline. 

With concern about hotel growth moving at a fast rate, elected officials needs to work quickly in bringing in a new proposal that can win more support, said Councilman Mike Seekings.

"We need to start tomorrow," Seekings said Tuesday. 

Representatives from Historic Charleston Foundation and the Preservation Society of Charleston both spoke in favor of moving Tecklenburg's plan forward, but voiced concerns they hoped would be addressed by a task force. 

For example, Historic Charleston felt the 250-room limit for new hotels that are considered "full-service" properties was still high, said Winslow Hastie, the group's president. 

Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and employment. She also writes the Business Headlines newsletter, which is published twice a week. Before moving to Charleston, her byline appeared in The Boston Globe.